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19th Jul 2024

CHI explains why you shouldn’t use your smartphone around your kids

Sophie Collins


There are growing concerns about the impact of smartphone usage on parents, infants, and children

The Paediatric Clinical Psychology Team at Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) has spoken of growing concerns around the impact of device usage on parents, infants, and children. 

According to Anne-Marie Casey, Senior Clinical Psychologist at CHI, smartphones have become an integral part of our daily routines, enabling us to manage numerous tasks from the comfort of our homes. 

However, this convenience has now been shown to come at a cost to our infants’ emotional and behavioural development.

Human Connection and Development

Humans are inherently wired for connection from birth. 

Babies rely on eye contact, reciprocal play, and engagement with their caregivers to learn how to regulate their emotions and understand their world. 

The ‘still face’ experiment by Dr. Edward Tronick shows the detrimental effects of a lack of parental responsiveness on a child’s emotional development. 

This metaphor extends to the impact of parents being preoccupied with their devices, effectively presenting a ‘still face’ to their children.


New research suggests that increased smartphone use around infants disrupts their relationships, attachment, social and emotional development, and language learning.

Dr. Claire Crowe, Paediatric Clinical Psychologist, emphasises that while smartphones are almost an addiction, recognising the problem is the first step toward change. 

Parents are encouraged to be mindful of their device use, particularly around their children, to mitigate the negative impact on their infants’ development.

Reducing Phone Use

Dr. Crowe offers practical advice for parents to manage their smartphone usage:

  1. Awareness: Be curious about when and how you use your device, especially in the presence of your children. Identify what you are scrolling and whether it can be substituted with other activities.
  2. Protected Time: Establish phone-free periods, such as during meals or after the children’s bedtime, to ensure quality interaction with your children.
  3. Reduce Temptation: Use barriers like a zip lock bag or a designated “phone box” to limit impulsive phone use.
  4. Alternative Activities: Engage in activities that keep your hands busy, such as pushing your child on a swing or holding a cup of coffee.
  5. Self-Compassion: Acknowledge that reducing phone use is challenging and celebrate small victories in decreasing screen time.
  6. Speaker Mode: When on calls, use the speaker to maintain visual engagement with your child.
  7. Accountability: Have a phone pal or play a “phone patrol” game with your kids to remind you when you are on your phone too much.

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 2024 is a call to action for all parents to reflect on their smartphone usage and its impact on their children’s development. 

By speaking up for babies and making conscious efforts to be more present, parents can foster a nurturing environment that supports their infants’ mental health and wellbeing.